Another Islamic State (IS) terrorist attack in a Western city is “expected” because of the West’s inaction and indifference in the region, the top Kurdish commander in Syria has warned.
General Mazloum Kobani, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Sky News the combination of the Turkish incursion into northern Syria, Western indifference to that and the West’s unwillingness to take back its IS fighters is creating the perfect environment for an IS resurgence.
“The danger of the resurgence of ISIS is very big. And it’s a serious danger.
“I think there are many people who don’t know this but it’s true. The Turkish aggression opened the space and provided hope for ISIS members,” the general said.
On the prospect of another “spectacular” terror attack like the Manchester Arena bombing or the Paris Bataclan attack, the general was blunt.
“This is possible. It’s one of the expected things that may happen in the future,” he said.
Referencing the 5,000 IS fighters who are being held in Kurdish-run prisons, he said his forces do not have the capacity to guard them.
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“We don’t know the fate of these prisoners in Syria and the balance here changes, so we don’t know what the future is for these prisoners,” he said.
“Yes, they pose a threat on other countries and they are extremely dangerous.”
Image: About 5,000 Islamic State fighters are being kept in Syrian prisons but guards cannot cope
We spoke at a secret location in northern Syria. Despite being the key ally of the West in its fight against IS over the past five years, the general is also wanted by Turkey.
As a Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) commander, he is considered to be a terrorist because of his links to the Kurdish separatist group inside Turkey – the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
Image: General Mazloum Kobani spoke to Sky News’ Mark Stone at a secret location in Syria
Speaking remarkably frankly, General Kobani claimed:
:: Turkey is actively aiding the resurgence of IS
:: Turkey will use captured IS fighters as bargaining chips against Europe just as it did with migrants inside Turkey
:: Intelligence from his men was the critical component in the successful US-led mission to kill IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month
:: The British government had “reacted positively” to his request for more military support – boots on the ground – in the urgent fight against IS
:: US President Donald Trump reversed a decision to pull out American troops from the region after a phone conversation with him.
Image: General Kobani said Turkey will use IS prisoners as bargaining chips, as it did with migrants
Turkey has said any suggestion it is aiding the return of IS is preposterous. Yet the general was insistent.
“Yes. It’s a big allegation and there’s evidence of it. Many people know it.
“Not just ISIS members but also former members of Al Nusra front and al Qaeda fighters and fought against our forces in 2013 and 2014.”
Several Islamist jihadist groups, with extremist agendas, have been active across Syria throughout the conflict.
There is video evidence showing some of these groups are working with Turkey to attack Kurdish fighters in the region.
But there is no hard proof to suggest IS members are among them.
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He confirmed he had discussed his concerns with Western leaders, including President Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
“Yes – we informed many of them,” he added.
“We told President Macron of France, Senator Graham in America and we told the American president. All of them know. They promised they will address this issue. We don’t know how… but they promised.”
As we spoke two Apache attack helicopters were landing nearby.
“Are these American helicopters?” I asked.
“Yes, they are Americans and American support is continuing,” he said.
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Despite all the talk by Mr Trump of pulling US forces out of northern Syria, it was clear that not only are they still here, but they are providing protection for the man Turkey wants dead. A sign of the convoluted nature of the Syrian conflict.
General Kobani said: “Some of them withdrew and a part of them stayed. But then after, the withdrawal has stopped and some returned.”
But he said the US objectives are now dangerously confused.
Image: A key Western ally, Mazloum Kobani is wanted by Turkey as the YPG is considered a terror organisation by Ankara
“America does not have a clear aim. We want something clear for us – what we want is for America to say we will remain here until we reach a solution in Syria.
“Otherwise, we have fear about the battle against ISIS and the safety of our population.”
Before the Turkish incursion began, a small contingent of British special forces was on the ground inside northern Syria.
The general confirmed he has discussed with UK officials the deployment of more British soldiers.
Image: Kurds believe IS was behind three car bombs in one day in Qamishli, northern Syria, which killed five people this week
He added: “Yes, their reply was positive. And they said – announced – they will continue [as part of the coaltion].”
On the issue of the IS prisoners in Syria, the general said he is constantly pressing Western governments to come up with a sustainable solution.
“We repeatedly told them we have two choices for them: to take back their prisoners and put them on trial if they can do so. They have to honour their commitments.
“Or, they set up an international court here [in Syria] because we cannot hold them forever here.”
Had either idea got traction within Western governments, I asked.
He smiled: “No, for either option.”
Source : Sky News